April 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-5

It was a slow start, but I ended up reading some really great books this month.

I think I found the genres that I’ve gravitated toward during this pandemic, and those include lighthearted literary, memoir, and true crime (because, why not?)

The books I read this month fit into those categories, and they’re some of the best in their genre. There’s even one that is giving Long Bright River a run for its money as my favorite book read this year.

I hope you and your family are staying sane. Maybe by this time next month we’ll be able to venture out again? Just in time for summer reading? Maybe??


Catch and KillCatch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Genre: Nonfiction/True Crime

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ronan Farrow’s involvement in uncovering the Harvey Weinstein case is riveting, fascinating, and at times, stranger than fiction. Farrow is a skilled writer, and this book reads like a suspense novel. Getting an inside look at how the entertainment industry conducts its business was both enlightening and infuriating. Farrow’s narration of the audiobook was a little strange with him attempting the accents of the people he’s portraying (sometimes he’s successful, other times, not so much), but don’t let that deter you from the powerful story he tells.


Jessica SimpsonOpen Book by Jessica Simpson

Genre: Celebrity Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wow. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting going into listening to this audiobook, but holy cow was it fantastic. Jessica Simpson has experienced many traumas in her life, and she doesn’t hold back in explaining them. A lot of celebrity memoirs I’ve read have been stilted and boring, two things this book definitely isn’t. It also had a nostalgia factor for me, since I grew up in the age of boy bands and Britney and had always liked Jessica Simpson. Well, now I love her. The audiobook also has 6 songs that are only available in this format, which helped inspire her in her writing. It was an awesome bonus, especially getting to listen and knowing the back story to the lyrics.


What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: E-book

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This is arguably Liane Moriarty’s most popular book (maybe just slightly behind Big Little Lies), and one that I’ve heard nothing but praise for. The premise is centered around Alice, who wakes up after hitting her head and thinks it is ten years in the past, when she was happy and in love with her new husband. She discovers that a lot has happened within the last ten years, including three kids she has no memory of and a husband she is now in a heated divorce with. It was an enjoyable read, and one that really makes you think. What would myself from ten years ago think of my life now? (In my case, I think I would be pleasantly surprised with how my life has turned out). While I enjoyed reading it, I was also a little cynical, especially when it came to the head trauma explanation (or lack thereof). But it’s easy to see why this has been one of Moriarty’s more praised novels.


Seven HusbandsThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is one of those books that I’ve seen talked about for awhile, and now seemed like the perfect time to pick it up. It’s an enjoyable “candy” read – light without a whole lot of substance. Learning about the fictional history of Evelyn Hugo’s seven husbands was a fun ride, with a big twist along the way. It’s a perfect escapism read for right now.


In Five YearsIn Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved this book. The writing was beautiful, and the story went in directions that I was not expecting, which is a hard feat to pull off these days (in my opinion). Our main character Dannie wakes up five years in the future and lives exactly one hour before coming back to the present. It feels like you know where the story is going to go, but Serle takes you down a completely different path that I can’t really talk about without giving anything away. I was just dumbfounded by how it ended, in a completely good way. I’ve been recommending this book to people since I finished it, and I can’t wait to read more of Serle’s work.


The Giver of StarsThe Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I didn’t know what I was going to think of this book, especially after the accusations of plagiarism when it first came out. But I was pleasantly surprised and ended up loving the story of a group of women in the 1930s and their traveling library (delivering books on horseback). Not to mention, I found my new favorite audiobook narrator in Julia Whelan, a phenomenal actress who brought a unique voice to each character (and there were a lot in this Kentucky-set town). I’ve always been hit or miss with Historical Fiction, but this one was a big hit for me.


Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Memoir

Format: E-book

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This memoir is so heartbreakingly beautiful. Kalanithi mixes prose with philosophy while explaining his short life as a surgeon who finds himself faced with his own cancer. The heavy topics were surprisingly readable and relatable. Kalanithi didn’t get to finish his manuscript before he passed away in 2015. You can feel how rushed the writing is at times, but knowing why makes it forgivable. This is a tearjerker, but it’s also a great insight into life and death and how we perceive time.


Books I DNF’d this month:

The Other Wes Moore – This memoir sounded interesting (discovering someone who has the same name as you is living out a jail sentence for murder), but I couldn’t get into it.

The Other Woman – I picked this up in hopes to do a buddy read with my sister-in-law (hi, Christine!), but I’ve realized that I don’t have the mental stability to read thrillers at the moment. I’ll let my SIL determine if I should read it in the future 🙂

Let me know in the comments what good books you read this month!

April Reads 2020-3

 

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March 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-4

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. Social distancing. Shelter in place.

Like everyone else, my life has been overtaken with all things coronavirus-related. It’s hard not to focus on anything else, including books.

I haven’t posted to Bookstagram since March 4; my last blog post was about the February books I read; I’m way behind on updating my book journals. You would think staying home would give me time to work on all this stuff, right?

Wrong.

Being an introvert, I enjoy my time alone, and alone time is hard to come by when everyone in the family is home. Because of this, I read more audiobooks than usual this past month.

When I need an escape, I just put my noise-cancelling headphones on to be taken on a literary journey where characters can interact with each other without fear of infection. Such simpler times those were.

I hope you are navigating through this pandemic as safely and sanely as you possibly can. What books are getting you through this difficult time? Let me know in the comments.


American RoyalsAmerican Royals by Katharine McGee

Genre: YA

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I love the concept of this novel. What if George Washington had chosen the path of monarchy instead of democracy? The story is told in present day in the kingdom of George Washington the First’s descendants. It’s most definitely a YA-centered novel. Each of our four protagonists are in the midst of one love-life debacle or another. But it’s a fun, light read that ends on a cliffhanger that makes you yearn to read the next installment (that won’t be available until later this year).


KaramoKaramo by Karamo Brown

Genre: Celebrity Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not a diehard fan of Queer Eye on Netflix, so I don’t know why I’m making my way through the Fab Five’s memoirs. After reading Jonathan’s book last month, I decided to tackle Karamo’s next, as he has the most interesting background, in my opinion. (Finding out in his twenties that he fathered a son, even though he’s gay? Say what?) I liked Karamo’s philosophical wonderings and hearing about his background of being a social worker and bringing more of a counseling vibe to his “culture guru” character on the show. My biggest problem is that Karamo never 100% lives up to the actions of his past. He’s constantly apologizing for things he did wrong, which is fine, but he seems to do it in every chapter, and I found myself getting annoyed after awhile. But, overall it’s an interesting glimpse into Karamo’s life up to this point.


Long Bright RiverLong Bright River by Liz Moore

Genre: Literary Mystery

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved, loved, LOVED this book. As of right now, this is my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a combination of everything I look for while reading: family relationships, mystery, current issues afflicting our society (in this case, opioid use). It was so beautifully written and was a book I couldn’t wait to pick up to see what happened next, a rarity in the books I’ve read lately. A must read for anyone who enjoys literary mysteries (think Miracle Creek), which I have discovered is my new favorite genre.


Dad is FatDad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Genre: Celebrity Memoir/Humor

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I listened to the entirety of this audiobook within a matter of a couple days. It was refreshing to read a comical take on parenthood, especially now that my husband and I are involuntarily holed up with a surly preteen and a crazy 3-year-old. Gaffigan shares stories of raising his five children with his wife in New York City. I found myself LOLing often, and nodding my head in agreement just as much. I definitely recommend this to parents who need a fun escape from what they’re currently enduring.


Such a Fun AgeSuch a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This book was so hyped up this past winter. It was all over Instagram and was a pick for many a book club (including Reese Witherspoon’s). I had to see what all the fuss was about. I downloaded the audio version, and while I liked the narrator who read it, I just thought it was OK. None of the characters, save 4-year-old Briar, were likable. The story was a bit contrived, though it did go in directions I wasn’t expecting it to go in. It was an interesting take on issues related to race, but I’ve read better (The Hate U Give, The Nickel Boys). I’m not saying you should read it, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t read it. I just thought it was “meh”.


The UnhoneymoonersThe Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Genre: Romance

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Talk about contrived. Everything that happened in this book was so inorganic and predictable. BUT, I still found myself enjoying it. It’s the perfect escapism book for the times we’re in at the moment. Though this can be described as “chick lit” or “fluff,” I thought it was really well written, which isn’t always the case with novels in this genre. Let your imagination hop on a plane to Hawaii with Olive and Ethan (the sister and brother of the bride and groom, who have to unexpectedly go on the trip in the newly married couple’s absence), and enjoy the sweepstakes-winning honeymoon suite and the enemies-to-lovers storyline that goes with it.


To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Genre: Classic

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I remember reading this book in high school, and I remember loving it, but 20 years later I couldn’t tell you what the story was about. I decided to revisit this classic novel by listening to the audiobook read by actress Sissy Spacek. Holy. Cow. Can Sissy Spacek narrate every book? She was fantastic and brought the Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama and its inhabitants to life. While the story is excellent for its depiction of racial inequality, its true heart lies in the relationships of the characters, which explains why I loved it then and why I still love it now. Everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime.


UntangledUntangled by Lisa Damour

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I urge anyone with a teenage daughter, or a daughter of any age really, to read this book. Damour is a psychologist who works with young teenagers, who also has two daughters herself, so she knows what she’s talking about here. My daughter is on the cusp of teenagedom, and I could already relate to so many things presented in this book as a parent, but it also gave me an inside look into what my daughter is going through. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, and I’ve already recommended it to anyone I think can get some great use out of it.


ColumbineColumbine by Dave Cullen

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Paperback

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Why I decided to pick up this book about the 1999 Columbine school shooting in the midst of the crisis the world is going through, I’ll never know. But I’m glad I did read it, because it clears up a lot of the misconceptions of what happened on, before, and after that fateful day. I was in high school when this event happened, and I can remember the uncertainty surrounding going to school and the potential for disaster. That fear is exactly what co-conspirator Eric Harris hoped to leave behind, and it’s unfortunate to say he got exactly what he wanted. This was an eye-opening book, not only about the killers, but about the media coverage that followed, the botched handling by law enforcement, and how the community handled the aftermath. It’s not a light read, but it’s an important one.


March Reads 2020-2

February 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-5

Though February was a shorter month, I was able to get quite a bit of reading done.

Turns out, suffering a back injury and being stuck in bed for a few days gives you ample time for reading. Gotta look at the upside, right?

The quality of the books I read were pretty decent overall, though no 5-starrers. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that really grabbed my attention to the point where I couldn’t put it down (though Nothing to See Here was the closest that came to it this month).

Here are the books I read for the month in the order I read them, as well as my DNFs.


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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is one I tried to read on my Kindle app in the past and ended up DNFing 30 or 40 percent in. My library loan had kept running out, even after multiple renewals, so it was time to officially give up on it last spring. I decided to try it on audio this time around since Jim Dale is the narrator, a god in the audiobook realm (he narrates the Harry Potter series). From what I’ve seen in book conversations of this novel, you either love it or you don’t. I’m in the “don’t” camp. It’s not all bad. Morgenstern’s imagination and descriptions of The Night Circus (a circus that happens -you guessed it- at night) and its magical elements are superb. The problem with this novel is the characters. There are a lot of them, none of which are particularly likable. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel to fill the Harry Potter-sized hole in your heart, you might like this magical world. Otherwise, I’d say skip it.


the most fun

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’ve read my reviews in the past then you know I love a good family-centered novel, and this one did not disappoint. The story follows married couple Marilyn and David and their four daughters going back and forth between present day and the years of their past. And let’s just say, every single one of them has their own issues, and issues that affect the whole of the family. This book is long. It’s over 500 pages that probably could have been cut by at least a hundred, but at least it’s enjoyable enough that it doesn’t feel like a slog.


Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was my first Brene Brown book I’ve read all the way through, and I just have to say, wow. Not only is she a great researcher and highly informed in her field of psychology, she knows how to write to a wide audience about it. In this book, Brown talks about figuring out your place in the world and how to fit in it. I learned so many things about myself while listening to this book. It’s a great read for self-discovery.


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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This is a novel that had been on my radar for awhile because of its hype (it was a Book of the Month option and a Once Upon a Book Club pick), so I decided to pick it up. Once I did, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fun mystery/thriller centered around a family who unwittingly finds themselves as a part of a cult. We go back and forth in time to see how the kids escaped after the adults were found dead from a suicide pact. It’s nothing that’s going to win rewards, but it was a quick read that keeps you guessing, though the ending feels a bit rushed.


Over the Top

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness

Genre: Celebrity Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Fans of Netflix’s Queer Eye will enjoy getting to know Jonathan from the time he was a young boy nicknamed “Jack” to how he got on his hit show. I highly advise to listen to this on audio to hear his Jonathanisms read aloud. The topics aren’t all glitter and gold, however. Van Ness covers heavy issues of his own life, including sexual abuse and drug use, that might be hard for some to hear. But it’s an overall fun read for Queer Eye fans.


https://amzn.to/320DhcJ

Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Ebook (ARC)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a great book for perfectionists and over thinkers, two categories I definitely identify with. I covered this book at length in another post (check it out here), so I won’t go into detail here. But if you need some tips on how to handle your overthinking, this is a great read.


One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Genre: YA

Format: Ebook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book has been described as “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars.” It’s a very apt description indeed. We follow characters with classic stereotypes (The Jock, The Braniac, The Pretty One, The Rebel) who are suspected of murder after one of their classmates dies in detention. YA murder mystery is not my typical genre, but I heard high praise for it from Kaytee on the Currently Reading podcast, so I thought I’d give it a go. I kind of wish I hadn’t. It was predictable (I figured out the mystery pretty early on), and the characters felt one-dimensional. It’s okay for a mindless read, otherwise, don’t waste your time.


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Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Genre: Magical Realism

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The premise of this story sounds outrageous. Twin siblings who spontaneously combust when they’re upset or angry? Sounds far-fetched, right? But weirdly, it works. When stories like these are done right, you forget that there’s an element that seems wrong, and Kevin Wilson does magical realism right. The story is about relationships at its heart and how we handle the difficulties of our lives. This is a relatively short book (254 pages), and I flew through it in record time. This novel got a lot of hype this past fall/winter, and trust me, you’ll be glad to know what all the fuss was about after you’ve finished it.


Little Women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Genre: Classic Literature

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I read the unabridged version of this literary classic because I didn’t want to “cheat” by reading the abridged version. I now regret that decision. This book is looooong, with many chapters that feel unnecessary to the whole of the book. I think I would have enjoyed this novel way more had I read the abridged version. It was fun to dive back in to the lives of the March sisters. I remember watching the movie adaption with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst multiple times when I was growing up, and it was nice to get to read Alcott’s written version of the story. The language is modern enough that it’s not hard to follow, and the book is a classic for a reason. But please, please read the abridged version. You won’t miss what’s cut. I promise.


Books I DNF’d this month:

You – I thought I would try the book version of the popular Netflix series, and while I liked the narrator of the audiobook’s voice, I could not get over the crude language of the narrator of the story. It doesn’t make me want to watch the TV show, either.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – This was the MMD book club pick for February, and I found myself picking it up because I felt like I had to, not because I was enjoying it. This is one I can see myself picking up again in the future, it just wasn’t the right time to read it now.


What were some of your favorite books you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

February Books Read

 

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3 Things Saving My Life Right Now

January and February are my least favorite months of the year. It’s cold outside. It gets dark way too damn early. It’s cold and flu season. My husband leaves the country for work every January for two weeks. The beginning of the year is the pits.

I recently read a blog post from my favorite blogger/podcaster Anne Bogel on modernmrsdarcy.com entitled 3 Things Saving My Life Right Now where she tries to reframe the negative woes of winter by focusing on the positives in her life at the moment.

I thought I’d play along, and I encourage you to, too. Here’s to hoping putting a positive spin on winter will get us through the next few cold, miserable weeks.


1. Books

This is an obvious answer, but I put it here because this is the first winter where I’ve really taken a deep dive on my book journey. There’s nothing better than coming home on a dreary day, starting a fire in the fireplace, and cracking open a book (or my Kindle app) to read under a cozy blanket.


2. LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-7 for Xbox

My husband and I saw this game on sale for about $20 around the holidays, and couldn’t resist the awesome deal. Now we spend our nights together playing a level or two and slowly making our way through all seven years of Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts.

It’s a fun game for the whole family. My 12-year-old daughter also likes to play while my 3-year-old is memorized by the graphics. I love seeing the movies (which the games are based on) come to life in LEGO form, and using our wands and spells to make our way through the wizarding world.


3. Later.com

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I’ve had a #bookstagram account for a few months now (you can follow my account here). I’m still trying to learn my way through it, including what types of pictures to take and what to write in the captions. I was never good about posting consistently because it felt like such a hassle to remember to log in on my phone, think of something to say on the spot, and post right then and there.

Later.com has been a lifesaver. You can schedule your posts in advance, which includes writing your captions and adding your hashtags. It’s easy to space out your paragraphs (no more typing everything into the notes app first and then copy and pasting into Instagram) and you can store all your pictures in one space.

I use the free version, which has some limitations (you can’t view analytics, and there’s a hashtag suggestion feature that only comes with the paid version; man, would that be useful!), but you can schedule up to 30 posts a month, and it’s extremely easy to use. My bookstagram posts have jumped in number since I started using this app, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to get a better handle on their own account.


What’s getting you through this winter? Share in the comments!

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*